Joseph Lycett

Governor Macquarie’s convict artist

Author: John Turner


Short of money in 1809 Joseph Lycett, an engraver, made some beautiful copies of The Bank of England’s five pound notes so that he could live the life of the gentry. Lucky to avoid hanging, he was transported to Sydney in 1814 and in no time at all he flooded the town with excellent copies of five shilling notes. Good at forgery but hopeless at concealment, he was sentenced to three years hard labour in the cola mines at Newcastle where his luck changed. The artistic commandant, Major James Wallis, encouraged him to paint and he later became an artist “in the special employ” of Governor Macquarie, creating hundreds of beautiful paintings of the houses, towns and natural scenery of New South Wales and Tasmania.

Lycett returned to England in 1822 to publish his now famous Views in Australia but once again success eluded him and he returned to crime with tragic results.

This well-written and thoroughly researched biography of a talented but flawed character tells the story of Australia’s most successful, unsuccessful convict artist.

The above text is quoted from the back cover of the book.


JOHN TURNER is a professional historian with thirty years experience of researching, teaching and broadcasting Australian History.

Born in Hay in western New South Wales, he completed his Bachelors and Masters degrees in history at the University of Sydney and took his doctorate at Newcastle University. His overseas experience includes a year at the University of London and he is deeply interested in the history and archaeology of Australia’s convict period.

John has written fourteen books and contributed chapters on Newcastle and the Hunter Valley to a great many reports and histories. Widely known for his weekly talks on ABC radio over the past fifteen years, he believes in biography as a means of explaining the past of Australia.

© John Turner 1997

Published by
Hunter History Publications
2/49 Telford Street
Newcastle, NSW, 2300